OAKLAND – Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch’s third carry of the game went 51 yards for a touchdown. Kelechi Osemele pulled to clear a path on the right side, Lynch busted through into open space and galloped into the end zone without much resistance.
Consider the play vital in Sunday’s 24-17 victory over the New York Giants. It was his longest since Dec. 21, 2014. It kickstarted an inconsistent Raiders offense playing without Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
It wasn’t his best play of the day. That came on 3rd-and-7 early in the fourth quarter, with the Raiders up just a field goal. That’s when Lynch went full Beast Mode.
Derek Carr found Lynch in the flat, with a defender bearing down. He looped left around one Giant, cut right past another. He ran over the next man up, while carrying somebody else on his back. He trudged another 10 yards after that, with a pack trying to bring him down. Vintage Lynch took 21 yards in total on a play, one that belongs on a highlight reel.
It’s something he often did during golden years in Seattle. It’s something he’s doing more and more down the stretch.
“He’s getting stronger as the season goes on,” running back DeAndre Washington said. “It’s hard to tackle that man for four quarters, you know what I am saying? He is going to wear you down regardless if he is getting two yards or the 50-yarder like he busted today. He is going to wear guys down and at this point in the season we are really going to need him.”
That was especially true Sunday, with so many skill players out. Lynch came through with 101 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, with two more catches for 20 yards. It fits a recent trend of Lynch running strong.
He has 68 carries for 292 yards and four touchdowns over his last four games, averaging 4.3 yards per rush in that span. There’s an easy dividing line in production there. Lynch was just okay, maybe a bit worse, early in the year.
The break isn’t hard to find. There has been a difference in production after he returned from a one-game suspension. Lynch missed the Week 8 loss to Buffalo as punishment for making contact with an official in a Week 7 win over Kansas City. Head coach Jack Del Rio has referenced a post-Buffalo change in Lynch several times, including Sunday night.
“I’ve seen a little more pep in the step,” Del Rio said. “There’s a little more…I can’t speak for him, I just know what I see. It’s been good. I welcome it, and we’re taking full advantage of it.”
It wasn’t just the suspension. Lynch took some time adjusted to the Raiders scheme, and the coaches and blockers to him, early in the year. That adjustment period has wrapped, and Lynch seems to feel more comfortable with his runs.
“He’s finally getting his legs back under him, and it’s showing,” said linebacker Bruce Irvin, Lynch’s teammate in Seattle. “You can tell.”
Lynch didn’t speak for himself after the latest win. He used colorful phrasing to say couldn’t talk due to a random NFL drug test, and didn’t return to the locker room.
The Raiders can see an uptick in production and comfort, and plan to capitalize on it down the stretch.
"He’s running hard, so he’s more confident, and it’s only going to get better from here," Osmele said in an interview with Raiders.com. "He’s rolling right now, so we have to keep doing our job up front and keep him rolling like that.”